Category Archives: About Aj

For Every Season

As the years go by and the trips around the sun continue, I’ve been able to notice more rhythms and seasons to my life. Every summer I crave fresh strawberries and blueberries and cherries and eat my fill trying to beat the “oh, they’re going rot!” hourglass and then I’m absolutely sick of them . . . until the next summer when the ache for summer’s sweet produce returns. Every month I dread taking care of the paperwork that piles up in my “paperwork to take care of” basket; on a Sunday afternoon or before a trip, I’ll attack the stack with a disposition that would make a Mission: Organization crew proud, and then I wonder why in the world I don’t take care of these things in a more timely manner . . . as I watch the next monthly pile accumulate. During the summer months, evenings are for walking; winter months, evenings are for knitting.

I’ve also noticed cycles that are more yearly in nature, and they usually happen in two-three years. When I moved to Newberg, I got really involved in school and youth group until my junior year when I experienced my first serious bout of depression and crashed. I lived with my roommate Alli for three years. I lived in Boise for 2 years and started getting antsy for another job. I worked at Fox for 2 years before I started getting antsy again. Judah and Abel are 2.75 years apart. I’ve been participating at a different level (as a woman and mom versus high schooler/young adult/young married) at my faith community for three years. And I’ve been blogging for three years.

As the 2-3 year mark approaches, I seem to get antsy/befuddled/anxious/ponder my identity-linked-with-activities. I haven’t been writing online a great deal, which doesn’t mean the thoughts aren’t present (although they’re a little floopy due to a lack of sleep), but they just haven’t seemed relevant or necessary to add to the world wide blogosphere. And yet I’ve really appreciated the connection with others that I’ve felt as I’ve written (though most of y’all won’t comment, but randomly mentioned, “Oh, I read that on your blog”, and my first reaction is “Lordy, did I make an ass of myself?” or “Which blog? The one that talks about God-stuff, or the one that talks about projectile poo-stuff?” Seriously, let me know that you’re out there: I promise that commenting doesn’t hurt – usually).

I’m not the one who seems to have entered the Great Blogging Identity Metamorphasis. Folks I’ve read for some time are revamping their sites, be it through design or content or taking on whole other identities. And since this is National Blog Posting Month, I figured it’d be as good of a time as ever to figure out what this whole ajschwanz.com thing is about.

So, being the good “facilitator” that I am, I’m going to turn it out to you, my faithful (and somewhat silent – shame on you, Quakers – you know what the period of quietism did to the priesthood of all believers) readers. I was thinking, “Hmm, what would it look like to have an Frequently Asked Questions page?” Well, I supposed I’d actually have to have questions that folks would ask me. Might be helpful . . .

So, ask me a question. I can’t guarentee that I can answer all questions, and I doubt that I’m going to create a sermon series out of them, but really: what sorts of questions would you like to see answered in an FAQ on this site? You can comment or email me or tell me in passing, though I must warn you, if it’s not written down, most likely it won’t adhere to a brain that’s mostly focused on making sure the toddler isn’t engaging in “helpful” behaviors that aren’t always so helpful.

If I was a really good Quaker blogger, I’d change it to Frequently Asked Queries, but since I’m also wearing a colored shirt and buttons and recently have been feeling the need to say “can I get a glory?!!” at church, I’m probably not *that* good of a Quaker blogger.

It’s Hard to Blog in the Wilderness

I miss blogging . . . kind of.

I remember when I started:  my friend sent me this random link, and it led me to a story she had written on what seemed to be a public sort of journal.  The story was funny; she wrote well; and I knew I wanted to be like that, too.

So I started off small, writing thoughts and stories and useless facts at the same site she did; this also coincided with me a) quitting my job, 2) giving birth, iii) having the majority of my conversations revolve around “you’re hungry again?¬† then why did you yarf on me?!” and “sleep:¬† i need sleep” with a person who had yet to make a full trip around the sun, so it was a great way to connect with others while tied to the nursing chair/napping schedule.
But then I wanted something more:  I wanted to go to the next level.  Sometimes my writings consisted of how many sticks of butter Paula Deen used in her last episode, but sometimes there was something more:  something that used a part of my brain that was trying to break free of hormonal-survival mode.  But those thoughts got lost in the ramblings about yarf rags and exploding diapers.

So I split:¬† I had two places I wrote, and I wrote regularly.¬† When something funny would happen, I’d mentally make a note of “oooh, this is so blogworthy.”¬† Oftentimes my showers would take too long simply because I was composing a post in my head, weighing when to reveal thoughts so as to make the most impact.

My writing needs were being met, but then came that ugly monster:¬† the comments.¬† My screen was refreshed often to see who thought I was witty, who had a clever comeback, who affirmed the fact that I was funny/a writer/a worthy person.¬† But sometimes, ever so often, comments were cranky:¬† folks didn’t agree with me or they misinterpreted something I wrote as a flippant remark.¬† Something I meant to be hilarious was taken seriously and was hurtful.¬† People might not always believe that I’m funny/a writer/a worthy person.

Which causes the withdrawal.¬† Sometimes with a slam of the computer and a “why don’t people just get it?!!¬† What’s wrong with them?!!”; sometimes with a “nononobadbadbad:¬† that’s not what I meant, and I don’t know how to fix this!”; sometimes with a “I’m done.”¬† But the writing and questing bug lingers.

Having read blogs for some time now, a sense of the Nature of the Blogosphere becomes secondhand, just like knowing when your husband’s had a bad day at work within seconds of walking in the door or when your son needs some cuddle time even though his actions say he’s more intent on bodyslamming the dog.¬† When “blog” was not the word of the year, bloggers toddled around mostly in anonymity, writing to their heart’s content, commenting on others, connecting and affirming and enjoying this new way of communicating.¬† But now more folks know about blogging, and many of them are cranky:¬†¬† rather than focus on putting positive things out there, they comment and critique and tear down.¬† I’ve seen a number of seasoned bloggers say the negativity isn’t worth the positive aspects of writing publicly, and they give it up.¬† Which makes other bloggers a) sad or 2) defensive.¬† The open, free nature of writing on a blog has changed.

Part of me thinks it’s somewhat like a relationship in that when it’s new and shiny, everything seems perfect.¬† The first fight or bump in the road makes you a little more cautious.¬† And then when you’ve hit that “three year slump,” you realize you’ve changed, and they’ve changed, and are you really in this for the long haul?

I’ve been gone from my blog lately.¬† Part of it is due to lack of time.¬† Part of it is healing up some wounds of “being public.”¬† Part of it is evaluating whether this is a good way to communicate with others right now.¬† And part of it is just where I’m at.

I’ve been listening to Graham Cooke talk about being in the wilderness, how God woos us into the wilderness so that He might show us who He is.¬† And if you can talk about/explain/write about this process, then you’re not deep enough in the wilderness.

So I think God’s got me squirreled away.¬† Which doesn’t mean I can’t write about other things.¬† But being a communicator, it’s hard when you can’t really write about what’s going on, cause really I don’t know:¬† it’s not a Quaker thing or emerging thing or feminist thing or writer’s thing or mother thing.¬† It’s a churning/leading/burning/comfort/healing/love that I take around with me as I run my errands and chase my son and walk my dog and facilitate my bible study and connect with other mamas and hug my husband and live my life in this present moment.¬† Not very defined:¬† but very real.

If you don’t hear from me, like *really* hear from me, at least I hope to catch a glimpse of you in the wilderness.

The Church Library Isn’t a Likely Place to Avoid Worship, Eh?

Yesterday Jason and I went to church.

But we didn’t.

Our car was parked in its usual spot (on the south side of 4th street because the north side fills up faster). Our son was in his class (he “got” to graduate this week to the 2’s class, whether he wanted to or not: he’s a little to “exhuberant” for the babes on the nursery floor). But Jason and I weren’t in our normal pew. We were sitting in the library, trying to figure out why we didn’t feel okay about going into the larger worship gathering.

And to think I actually could’ve been helping to lead this Sunday’s worship. Gregg was speaking at Northside Community as part of the “there’s one church in Newberg that meets in lots of different places” reality. So this Sunday at NFC was going to be a Worship Workshop – looking at what we do and why we do it. I was asked to talk about silence, which made me laugh considering that as the mother of a toddler and a bounding dog there’s not a lot of silence in my life. When I heard about the idea of sharing about the importance of silence, the writer in me starting internally transcribing, but before I got too far, I realized I just couldn’t add one more thing to my plate at this moment, particularly in the church dish: as much as I talk about being missional and present in my community, I find myself pouring more time and energy and resources into the church. I’m wondering when my words and actions are going to line up. True, my words can act as a catalyst for those in my worship gathering, but still . . .

Neither Jason nor I felt peaceful about going to church, but the idea of another day home with Judah seemed daunting (I read somewhere that people get yowly around their half-birthdays and birthdays – in nine days he’s going to be experiencing the later). So we dropped him off in the nursery and looked for a place where we could process. We didn’t come to any specific conclusions in our conversation, other than that we’re on a journey and we need to pray and talk with others. Community is important, both for us as well as Judah – he’s such a social creature, and we’re not, and there’s a reason that God felt it would be wonderful for us to act as his parental hosts. Participating rather than just consuming. Action and contemplation. Being present with folks in the unlikely places. Laughing and eating and working and being present to each other.

A friend saw us sitting and asked if we were doing our own form of emerging church. We laughed. He wasn’t present in service, either, but rather was in the Prayer Room because that’s where he found the good stuff to happen.

We need to connect with folks, to see where they feel God leading them – tugging, pulling, encouraging, prodding. If we don’t pay attention to those nudges, they’ll leave and find more receptive ears, and dang it: I wanna be part of God’s Good Stuff! What do you hear? Is it making you uncomfortable? Are you finally feeling freedom? Wanna hang out in the library? Baby Steps, baby steps (at least for me: I’m not so much a free fall kind of gal . . . yet). πŸ™‚

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

When I worked at a library, I quickly became a Spoiled Book Brat:¬† if I saw something interesting, I filled out an order form at the Reference Desk, and almost everything was approved for purchase.¬† PLUS I’d be the first to get to read it:¬† score!

Having relinquished my keys and Dynix login, I have had to adjust to life without my book privileges.¬† For a while I was quite dismayed by the selection at my local library:¬† the new books were seriously lacking, and the old books were . . . well, old.¬† But then I became an Online Hold Junkie:¬† by logging into the cooperative library district, I could request books from around the area, all while sitting in my pajamas or rocking my infant son to sleep in his bouncy chair.¬† Now I wait until I have a stack of holds (which doesn’t take long to add up, both bookwise and taking-up-space-on-the-hold-shelfwise, especially when you put the Gourmet Cookbook on hold and don’t realize that it’s a breezy 1040 pages.¬† I just wanted to see if it had pretty pictures), let Judah loose in the kids section right next to the Circ desk, whip out my card, throw books into the bag, and flee before I become “that woman with all the holds” who brought in “that kid who jumps on stacks of voter booklets in the corner” again (I know what Circ/Youth Desk folks say).
Every once in a while the public library system doesn’t have what I’m looking for; in those times, I exercise my alumni rights and frequent my university’s library.¬† Again, yay for online searches, because believe me, they don’t have a Children’s Department next to the Circ Desk.¬† Recently I received a lovely email notifying me that Stories of Emergence:¬† From Absolute to Authentic came in.¬† I thought it’d be another EC book, probably a compliation of folks who all know each other and are all chummy chummy in the Inner EC Sanctum (not that I’ve seen the Sanctum:¬† I think it’s a bit like Shangri La, only in Minnesota :)).¬†¬† But it’s not:¬† each chapter is written by a different author focusing on an aspect of some sort of “emergence” in their life – in ministry, world view, etc.¬† The importance of sharing personal journeys (i.e. testimonies in Quaker terms) seems to becoming emphasized again:¬† these folks put their money where their mouths are.

As you read these stories you will find a safe place to doubt and question your faith and be the real you. Follow the stories of these “formers” who were steeped in their beliefs–a former fundamentalist, Pentecostal, liberal, feminist, communist, and several others–and walk with them on their journeys. See what twists and turns arise before them, and find out what they learned (about faith, themselves, their beliefs, the world) as they emerged on the other side.

The first section of stories are regarding ministry, and they really struck home.¬† It reminded me of elements of my journey that I shared during my Yearly Meeting workshop, and I’m thinking it may be time to share again.¬† I’m not sure what form it will take.¬† And I’m also mindful of appropriate sharing.¬† Sharing on the World Wide Web can be intimate but also boundary-building:¬† there certain elements that can be lacking – accountibility, caution, a common vocabulary, correct communication.¬† Initially the same could be said for a book or any reading material, but blogging can be very immediate and reactive rather than thoughtful and intentional:¬† it takes discipline to be balanced.

Where do you share your story?  Or do you share at all?  Do you feel like you have a venue, opportunities to bless others with your experiences?  Sometimes it can be hard in suburbia, with our lack of pubs (which, my husband always reminds me, started off as public rooms with alcohol served rather than just a bar).  I wonder where we can create space to share and be together. . .

Red Light, Green Light, Good Light, Bad Light

Ah, different points of view are fun.

My friend and former fellow Balcony Person Cherice asks a good question this week:

I’ve been busy lately and we had some friends over the last few days so I’ve been neglecting blog-dom, and I don’t have time for a real post right now, but for the last few days I’ve been thinking about the Quaker concept of the Inner Light. Where did the phrase come from? What did it mean originally? What does it mean now? I’ll work on answering these questions later.

What a great idea: to explore, question, examine something that can be used so casually and unthoughtfully.

Elsewhere, someone does not question or explain from revelation/experience, but rather states what the Inner Light is.

Very different information, very different perspectives, very different presentations. One is very relational and engaging; one is very statement-oriented and persuasion-attempting. One comes out of experience with; one comes out of observation of.

So, good Light? Bad Light? What makes the difference?

Where’d the Blogging Go?

God’s Wheel

God says to me with a kind of a smile,
“Hey how would you like to be God awhile
And steer the world?”
“Okay,” says I, “I’ll give it a try.
Where do I set?
How much do I get?
What time is lunch?
When can I quit?”
“Gimme back that wheel,” says God,
“I don’t think you’re quite ready yet.”*

Ok, so I wasn’t steering the world with God’s wheel, but I was steering a small child who *never* *stops* *moving* up at my parents’ house while the folks at my web hosting place were steering information from one server to another to another. No, I wasn’t doing anything illegal so that my site had to be taken down (Stacy :)), but wouldn’t that be funny: porn’s okay, but emerging/quaking/listening to God’s too controversial?!!

So yes: the blogging should return to its normal sporatic pace now.

**A personal experience of Shel Silverstein, though I think we’ve all given it a try, yes?

Four Things

So this meme has been floating around for some time, and I’ve been feeling left out. But then my friend who plays online almost as much as me tagged me: and now I feel like part of the ‘cool kids.’ πŸ™‚

Four Jobs Iνve had:

  • Elevator operator girl (it was a short gig, running the elevator in EHS for a play night at Newberg High. It was Christmas time, so I brought a tape player and played Bing and Nat: I also dragged in a plant from the foyer for ambiance. I didn’t receive pay, but did receive thanks in the play program and a certificate stating that I was the top Elevator Operator Girl Ever)
  • High ropes course facilitator at Tilikum’s Challenge Course (it’s fun to hang kids, and mouthy NIKE employees, from trees)
  • Library assistant in circulation and young adult collection supervisor at Ada Community Library (Yes, sir, you do have a lost book on your record. No, sir, we did not forget to check it in. Yes, sir, we did check the shelves. No, sir, someone did not break into the book return to steal the 1976 Ford Chilton’s car manual. Yes, sir, I do have a college degree and am not stupid.)
  • Youth Intern at NWYM (which included counseling camps, running Junior High Yearly Meeting, being gopher girl at camps, carrying tiki torches in my car, calling in all my favors with all my friends to pleasebeacounselorforthisweeki’llsooweyou!, running my friend Sheila in from the coast to Beaverton after she sliced a couple inches of flesh out of knee after tripping and falling on a log, and sleeping pretty much never)

Four movies I could watch over and over:

  • Grosse Pointe Blanke (“My home is an Ultimart! I can never go home, Oatman, but I guess I can shop there.”)
  • Reality Bites (“‘Quick, Vic, what’s your Social Security number?’ ‘851-259-357’ ‘Very impressive.’ ‘It’s the only thing I truly learned in college.'”)
  • Mary Poppins (“Close your mouth please, Michael, we are not a cod fish.”)
  • Dude, Where’s My Car? (“‘And then?’ ‘I refuse to play your Chinese food mind games!'”)

Four books I have read over and over:

Four places Iνve lived:

Four places Iνve vacationed:

Four tv shows I love:

Four favorite dishes:

Four websites I visit daily:

Four places Iνd rather be right now:

  • Asleep in a big bed without my cat (who had a bad night of sleep last night? hmmmm)
  • On the beach at the Cook Islands with wireless, my computer, my hubby, and my bebe
  • Sitting outside Cafe Ole on a summer Alive After Five Wednesday
  • Where’s U2 right now?

(Bobνs addition) Four things that make me warmly happy:

  • The blanket my mama just made for me
  • Hearing people talk about how smiley Judah is
  • Thinking about when I told my brother graphic details of pregnancy (like the words “dilate” and “plug” among other things – HA!)
  • Remembering the first night Judah was born, with both my boys breathing deeply while sleeping and me too tired and happy to sleep

TAG:

  • Mauri & Sherry (this is my way of blog-outing them πŸ™‚ )
  • Jimmy Barnhill (cause Gregg somehow missed tagging one of the the Funniest Person on the Earth)
  • Doug Pagitt (cause I’m sure he has nothing else to do and certainly remembers me πŸ™‚ )
  • Amy – my fellow work widow – (can you feel the boys’ eyeballs rolling? πŸ™‚ )

Writing For “Reals”

So folks keep asking me when Iνm going to write a book: I think theyνre telling me Iνm verbose. πŸ™‚

Part of me thinks I should write something; but part of me thinks I havenνt lived enough life to have anything to share. I think about writing a personal journey, but with the abundance of blogs and autobiographies and memoirs and reflection-oriented books, I wonder if Iνd just add another drop to the flooding pond. I think about writing a more technical book, but really: what do I know? And like I could write something and not make it personal: HA!

What are things that are on your mind? What are questions you think a lot about? What would you like to hear about from another person?

GiveMeaning

It reminds me of “Baby steps to four o’clock.”

GiveMeaning.com is a website for the $5 philanthropist. Itνs based on the premise that many of us would gladly give a few minutes of our time and a few dollars if we knew it could actually affect someone or something we care about. By joining together with other people who are passionate about the same things we are, we can make a meaningful difference.

It’s times like these that I love the internet.

HT

I’m an SK . . . what’s *your* excuse?

Jason’s family has an abnormal number of “PK”s in it — “PK” meaning preacher’s kid. Grandparents and parents and and aunts and uncles and all sorts of different relations in his family have put in their time in ecclesiastical leadership. His sister found a site, PKI, and I believe she ordered this shirt.

I don’t have such a site for my situation, but even so, I think I’d need more than a shirt.

I’m an SK – a superintendent’s kid. Well, *former* SK – I’m now a APK (associate pastor – still no shirt). My dad served as the superintendent for the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends churches. Northwest Yearly Meeting is the regional gathering/district for evangelical Quaker churches in Oregon/Idaho/Washington. How did my pappy end up there when his college degree is in chemical engineering? It’s a long story; but needless to say, he’s put the days of managing chemical waste dump sites behind him and now navigates the waters of spiritual formation (which also has dump sites, but they tend to be of a different nature).

Tonight I’ve been wondering why people feel called to such roles such as pastor or superintendent. They generally say “God placed a call on my heart.” If that’s so, then my view of God’s a bit on the downside because a God who does that seems mean.

As an SK, I’ve had some amazing opportunities: I’ve met more people that I could imagine, I’ve heard and experienced some amazing things that I knew about because I was exposed to certain circles. But I’ve also dealt with a lot of crap. PKs have it hard: everyone in the church knows their business. For an SK, multiply that by a lot more. It’s similar to how you have an opinion about your own state governor, but not necessarily about the governor four states over from you. But you, the folks four states over, *and* everyone else in between has an opinion about the president: and most likely they’ll let you know about it.

I think tonight I’m grieving some. Both my yearly meeting and my local worship gathering are undergoing changes, and as the current superintendent said, “Change doesn’t always feel good.” For a long time, I didn’t consider one church building to be my home, but rather I considered the yearly meeting to be my worship gathering: I knew people and had friends and worshiped Christ in so many different areas. The proposed change is going to be good . . . if people will let it come about. But there will also be sadness as some things fall away, and I think my previous relationship to the YM makes me more sensitive to the overall demeanor. And there will be the desire of folks to pick at the structure and wording and teeny tiny itty bitty things that in the long run will all fall away and won’t have helped us keep our eyes on Christ one bit more because we were too focused on trying to control and manage and own. . . and that makes me sad.

And with my local worship gathering: it’s no secret that I’m a Gregg-fan. Heck, I’ve followed him to two different states! In fact, I’m thinking of making a Gregghead bumper sticker and slapping in on a VW bus . . . no, wait: that’s my *brother* who lives in Deadhead country, not me. πŸ™‚ Quakers generally don’t vote but rather “come to consensus” . . . and yet I’d say our church votes — with our dollars. When the elders and Gregg presented the congregation with the results of this year’s budget, there was a backlash. . . and some of it got personal.

I’m sad for the grief my friend is going through: I’ve personally seen the toll it takes. I’m particularly sad for his family: it sucks to watch your Dad go through something like that, and it sucks for everyone you’re around to know. When things were bad for Dad at the engineering office, the only way I knew is that he seemed a little somber. But PKs/SKs know and live with and around the badness that their parents are dealing with.

I can’t tell you how many bitter and angry PKs I know: people who harbor great anger towards the institutional church because they’ve seen the grief, pain, and suffering Christians have inflicted on their parents. I also know many PKs who love the church despite the negative stuff, but it took a bit of healing on their part.

Why is this such a prevelant experience for PKs? Part of me wonders if its because pastors are called to/put in positions that were never meant to exist: no one was meant to serve in that sort of capacity in ministry. Gregg recognizes that he cannot serve in all the roles that are tied to the current head pastor job description. And yet when he said that to our congregation, people have said all of that is necessary to “keep in touch with ‘the people'”. He’s gonna lose touch real quick if he burns out just like hundreds other pastors, much like a part in an engine that “kinda fits, but not really.”

So, if the pastors are there because God placed a call on their heart, and the role of a pastor is defunct . . . did they miss God’s call? Does God call people to dysfunctional roles? Why would God call people with young families to a position that absorbs so much of their lives? Honest questions – not meant to accuse, demean, or criticize anyone’s experience. I’m in an open, pondering mood, needing insight from folks who’s “walked the walk.”